Police: Cortland man brought shotgun to pickup basketball game

A city man was arrested on a felony weapons charge after he brought a sawed-off shotgun to a teenage basketball game Saturday on Homer Avenue, according to city police.

Leon Graham, 34, of 31 West Main Street approached two teen boys playing basketball Saturday morning, July 13, at a residence on Homer Avenue and asked to play, said Lt. Michael Strangeway. The boys refused to let Graham in the game because they did not know him and Graham argued with the boys before leaving, Strangeway said.

Graham returned about ten minutes later riding a bicycle and carrying a black duffle bag with him, according to police. Graham laid both the bicycle and the duffle bag on the ground near where the boys were playing and once again asked to join in, Strangeway said.

“At this point, the teenagers have kind of a weird feeling about what’s going on, so they agree and let him(Graham) play basketball,” Strangeway said.

A man visiting the owner of the Homer Avenue home where the boys are playing noticed Graham with the boys and became concerned and suspicious, Strangeway said.

The man sneaked over to the bag and opened it, discovering a sawed-off shotgun inside, he said. Alarmed, the man called 911 and city police were sent to the home.

When Patrolman Joe Peters and other officers arrived, they found the sawed-off shotgun was a 20-gauge and loaded, Strangeway said. 

Graham told the officers he knew nothing about the gun, Strangeway said. 

“However, he had a 20-gauge shotgun shell in his pocket,” Strangeway said, adding the shell matched the shell found in the loaded shotgun.

Graham lied about his name to police officers when they responded, he added.

Why Graham brought the shotgun to the game and what he intended to do with it is unclear, Strangeway said. There was no indication Graham was high, drunk or mentally ill when he was arrested, he said.

Strangeway noted the observations and actions of the man visiting the residence was crucial in this case and called it a good example of the “see something, say something” mantra.

“The guy saw what he deemed to be suspicious behavior and rather than ignore it, he acted on it and looked into it further,” Strangeway said. Strangeway encouraged other city residents to be on alert in their neighbors and not to hesitate to call the police if they see something suspicious. “If you see something suspicious, don’t just ignore it,” he said. “You don’t know who you might be helping out…”

Graham was charged with second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, a felony, and misdemeanor false personation. He was arraigned in City Court and sent to the Cortland County jail on $5,000 cash or $10,000 bond. He is scheduled to reappear at 9 a.m. July 31 in City Court.